Mexican Attorney General: Drug traffickers corrupting federal agents

By E. Eduardo Castillo

1:31 p.m. August 24, 2005

MEXICO CITY – Corruption by drug traffickers, long a problem in Mexico's police forces, has increasingly infiltrated Mexico's top federal investigative agency, Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca acknowledged Wednesday.
"We are starting to have a problem with corruption and penetration" by drug-trafficking forces inside the Federal Agency of Investigation, known as the AFI, which is responsible for drug-trafficking investigations, Cabeza told a Senate commission.

Cabeza de Vaca also said that more than 820 people have been killed in Mexico in recent months in drug trafficking-related incidents.

The AFI was created under the Attorney General's Office in 2001 partly because of rampant corruption in a predecessor operation, the Federal Judicial Police – which itself had been created several years earlier to root out corruption in a still-earlier agency.

Several AFI agents have being detained on drug trafficking charges in recent years, but officials say that the agency is relatively clean. The government also depends heavily on the military to attack drug gangs.

In March, prosecutors charged a former head of the AFI office in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo with protecting drug traffickers.

In recent weeks, a judge in the nearby State of Mexico has ordered the arrests of several AFI agents, one of them a high-ranking officer, accused by prosecutors of trying to extort money from a former president's brother.

Cabeza de Vaca said that the AFI needs more personnel to fight federal crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and weapons cases. It has 7,000 employees, but only about 2,000 are agents operating in the field.

Despite Mexico's arrests of top drug traffickers during the past five years, no area of the country is free of drug trafficking, Cabeza de Vaca said.

The attorney general said the influence of the country's seven major cartels extends from the northern U.S.-Mexico border to the Pacific and Gulf coasts, as well as central and southern areas of the country.